On Tuesday, January 27, the U.S. Geological Survey released two new publications highlighting historical hydraulic fracturing trends. These publications are the first of their kind: until now, there has not been comprehensive, published, publicly available information regarding the extent, location, and character of hydraulic fracturing in the United States.

The publications are a scientific investigation report called “Trends in Hydraulic Fracturing Distributions and Treatment Fluids, Additives, Proppants, and Water Volumes Applied to Wells Drilled in the United States from 1947 through 2010—Data Analysis and Comparison to the Literature” and a companion data series called “Data Regarding Hydraulic Fracturing Distributions and Treatment Fluids, Additives, Proppants, and Water Volumes Applied to Wells Drilled in the United States from 1947 through 2010.” According to lead author Tanya Gallegos, the U.S. Geological Survey now has “an improved understanding of where the practice [of hydraulic fracturing] is occurring and how hydraulic fracturing characteristics have changed over time.”

The report is an analysis of data on nearly one million hydraulically fractured wells and 1.8 million fracturing treatment records from 1947 through 2010. While the report is a nationwide study of hydraulic fracturing trends, the bulk of the analysis focuses on Texas, which has historically had the highest number of records of hydraulic fracturing treatments and associated wells.

The data series consists of datasets in 21 spreadsheets that outline the geographical distributions of hydraulic fracturing treatments and associated wells (including well drill-hole directions) as well as water volumes, proppants, treatment fluids, and additives used in hydraulic fracturing treatments in the United States. It also describes the data–extraction/aggregation processing steps, field names and descriptions, field types, and sources.

The scientific investigation report uses the data to identify hydraulic fracturing trends in drilling methods and use of proppants, treatment fluids, additives, and water in the United States. The trends are compared with those in peer-reviewed literature to establish a common understanding of the differences in hydraulic fracturing and provide a context for understanding the costs and benefits of increased oil and gas production. The publications also examine how newer technology has affected the amount of water needed for hydraulic fracturing and where hydraulic fracturing has occurred at different points in time.

The publications fill a gap in the historical and scientific literature surrounding hydraulic fracturing in the United States, and will be a valuable tool in the changing regulatory climate of hydraulic fracturing.

The report, “Trends in Hydraulic Fracturing Distributions and Treatment Fluids, Additives, Proppants, and Water Volumes Applied to Wells Drilled in the United States from 1947 through 2010—Data Analysis and Comparison to the Literature,” is available here. The data set, “Data Regarding Hydraulic Fracturing Distributions and Treatment Fluids, Additives, Proppants, and Water Volumes Applied to Wells Drilled in the United States from 1947 through 2010,” is available here.